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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What would you do?

A friend had the following experience:

This morning I took the children to the pharmacy to get some breathe right strips for my toddler. He has been a little congested at night. Anyway, I went up to the consultation window to ask the pharmacist a question about this saline nasal spray for children. I was holding my daughter and both boys were standing right next to me, well groomed, calm, quiet, and well behaved. I was having a great morning, I don't think I looked frazzled or overtired or anything like that.

Instead of answering my question about the nasal spray, he asked, "Did all of these children come out of you?" I didn't respond at all. I just stared at him.

He continued, "Wow, you just pop them out like popcorn." I repeated my question about the nasal spray. He finally answered my question. Then he asked my children how old they were. They answered (3, 4, and the four year old answered for the 18 month old.) Then the pharmacist said, "Oh, and it looks like you have another one coming, too." The four year old says smile with a huge, "Yes, we have a new baby coming!".

Then the pharmacist said, "You know, we sell birth control here".

I was so surprised that he said that! A female pharmacist behind him and a female employee (but not a pharmacist) both started laughing loudly behind him. I couldn't believe that two ladies would find that funny.

I struggle with temperance, so I bit my tongue (I LITERALLY bit down on my tongue because my children were with me and what I wanted to say was not okay to say, especially in front of them). Instead I said, "Well that would be really sad. We love children in this family and we are very happy that we are going to have a new baby soon".

The pharmacist was still holding the nasal spray, which is why I hadn't walked away before this point.

I really found his comments inappropriate, especially in front of my children. I also want to be clear that even if my children were poorly groomed and ill behaved I would have found his comments inappropriate. But it was the case that my children appear (and are!) adorable, healthy, well cared for, and happy.

She is going to be writing a letter to the store management as well as the corporate office. My question for all of you is what would you do/say to one of your employees if you got a letter detailing this story.

I'll give my thoughts on it Thursday. I don't want to sway anybody.


Patti Bryant said...

It may seem a little harsh, but I would have to terminate the employee. I would definitely speak to the employee and get their side of the story, however. If there were extreme circumstances, I would possibly give them a final warning. However, if none exist, termination immediately. This customer will never forget this experience and now this store has a tarnished reputation with the customer. They'll tell their friends and that employee made a HUGE impact on the store.

Anonymous said...

This is horrifying. I would not immediately term--I guess I am a softy that way. There would be a strong written and verbal warning though, and if a similar complaint surfaced again I would terminate.

Sarah Mac said...

I find these comments incredibly inappropriate as well. How I responded would depend on the employee's previous history; if this was the first complaint or issue, I would issue a very severe warning and ask him to attend some kind of training on communication. If this wasn't this first issue for this employee, I would terminate them immediately. Those kind of comments are completely inexcusable.

Becky said...

Oh. My. God. If my chin wasn't resting on my hand while I was reading it would have been on the floor. I can't believe people sometimes. It's bad enough for anyone to say that, but someone who is supposed to be doing a service-oriented job??

I'm not in HR, but if I was, I would DEFINITELY be talking to ALL of the employees about proper behavior in the public. You do not make comments about other people's personal business - no matter what it is or what you think of it. You help them as much as you are able, and you smile and are pleasant. And that is it. Nothing else. Even something that one person might think is a compliment might offend a customer. For instance, I know some people who think that the popping kids out kind of thing should be taken as a compliment, when obviously your friend didn't think so (and I'm with her on that).

And if someone else you work with does make some kind of a comment, you shouldn't laugh. I don't really know what would have been more appropriate - if they had said something to him right then, or if they had just ignored it and talked to him later, or if they went straight to HR, but laughing was not the appropriate choice.

Ugh. What is WRONG with people?

pelican said...

Huh, my first thought is that I don't believe this happened, or at least not this way. Not only does the situation strike me as off, but the tone of the piece strikes me as propagandistic.

Also, a bit of a stretch for your blog, eh?

However, in almost all large chain pharmacies, the customer service windows are well covered by video/audio as a theft prevention measure- frequently the whole pharmacy area is covered.

If something happened, corporate will be able to review.

Beth Robinson said...


I can see this happening, even from someone well intentioned. A jovial guy (even a woman) who thinks he's being friendly and doesn't realize he's being offensive.

That said, the point of it being on this blog has nothing to do with the kids but is to ask what HR's responsibility is when faced with someone who is friendly to a customer but says something the customer finds inappropriate even if it is outside the usual race/sexual arena.

I agree with Becky that this is a training issue. All employees should be trained and if they haven't been in the past then this one should be warned specifically, not fired immediately. Unless, of course, this was a second complaint.

The other two employees laughing might have had to do with some other context, but that they did suggests this is a larger issue.

Anonymous said...

Considering that I'm a tech in a pharmacy, those comments were definetly inappropriate, especially coming from a pharmacist. Discretion is key in dealing with all patients - employees should have training on confidentiality & harassment issues. Some people sure do have a warped sense of ha-ha, but it seems unlikely that there will be strong repercussions from upper management due to the nature of the industry.

Love yer blog - keep on writin'!


Michelle said...

EHRL - Obviously you are inclined to believe your friend's story at face value, but I would need to investigate.

Each employee who was at the pharmacy that day should be interviewed to determine their take of events. Then based on those findings, the employees' histories and the companies policies and practices I would recommend appropriate disciplinary action. I would also consider counseling and training for not just these employees but the entire store if appropriate.

Obviously, it is never appropriate to be disrespectful of coworkers or customers. That said, in society today there seems to be a backlash against large families. I am not saying that as a justification for the behavior/comments but with it being a commnon news story I am not particularly surprised at the comments.

Alphager said...

Immediately terminate the employee.
In a normal customer-facing job, i would give a final warning and a mandatory training for this employee, but this behavior is simply intolerable at a pharmacy.

Is the employee going to give mean comments to an elderly buying viagra? To a depressed person buying antidepressants? To an anxious person buying anti anxiety meds? Those are simply unacceptable risks with this employee.

I would also use this occurrence to remind all personnel how important a good customer relation is.

Henning Makholm said...

In addition to "supposed to be doing a service-oriented job", I wonder whether there are also a professional ethics problem here? Around here, pharmacists are regulated as health professionals, and I think the regulating authorities would frown on conduct that could make patients discontinue medication for fear of being made fun of at the pharmacy.

(And many customers will not have a practical option to take their business elsewhere).

Anonymous said...

I'm a snarky happily child-free person and while I might think something like this about someone with an abundance of children I'm a firm believer in "to each his own" especially if the kids aren't tormenting everyone else in the store. I certainly can't imagine speaking in such a way to a stranger, and definitely not in a professional capacity. A pharmacist is not an unsophisticated or entry level employee and as such should know better. If security tapes and eye witnesses support the woman's story, I'd fire him in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the response is dependent on more than just this incident. If the guy has a history of making offensive comments, I've warned him previously, and he's obviously not making any effort to remedy the behaviour, then I would probably have to terminate.

Otherwise, as much as the customer would like to see him fired, I would most likely give him a strong warning. Obviously there's a problem with professionalism in the department, which would have to be addressed by me. If there were an appropriate workshop to send them to I might do that, otherwise I might have to do some 1-on-1 with all three employees to figure out exactly why they think it's okay to talk to people like that, and how we might go about adjusting that attitude.

noah said...

Like others I would feel the need to investigate and take all of my employees' side of the story into account as well. I have seen customers exaggerate a story beyond belief, and employees downplay the same story.

The action taken would depend on this particular employee's history. First offense would mean a strong written warning and a plan for training. If this is a recurring issue I would terminate the employee. I would also counsel the two who were laughing in the background on appropriate behavior.

I'm not a big fan of training for the entire store. The rest of the employees will feel like they are being punished for doing nothing wrong. I would publish a memo about appropriate conversation with customers and make sure that the entire staff received a copy. If there is a recurring issue with several employees at the same store, then sure training everyone is in order.

This is my view as a supervisor, but I'm not in HR.

Hairy HR Guy said...

I would be very biased towards termination. Would want to investigate, take a look at how we may have handled other similar situations, what the expectations are of a person in this role, etc... But lacking anything that would cause me concern, this is the type of behavior one does not want in a position dealing with the public.

HR Leigh said...

As a mother, I would have told him that I was glad the store sold birth control so that the drug companies would be actively participating in the extinction of insensitive trolls like himself. And that would be the edited version for my children.

As an HR person, I would have investigated and, if not terminated, make EVERY employee take a sensitivity class. After one of those, I would imagine the other employees would step in the next time to avoid having to participate in a role playing exercise again.

There are time when I wish you could just smack an employee instead. No permanent damage, just that smack across the back of the head your mother used to give you when you were doing, or about to do, something stupid.

Gullyfoyle said...

Investigate; conduct a disciplinary meeting; consider mitigating factors, decide on level of discipline taking into account employees length of service, previous work record, etc.

The account as detailed certainly warrants a literal or figurative whump upside the head.

Kerry said...

I'd investigate. If it went down like she says it did, he'd be fired, and I'd be having one hell of a talk with the other employees who were laughing at this.

My greater concern, actually would be whether there was a culture in that pharmacy that allowed for this guy to feel comfortable commenting on this, and for others to be cackling about it. One jerk is an easy problem to solve, but a pervasive culture of making inappropriate comments to customers (customers!) is another. I'd want to know which problem I had. I'd also want to know what ELSE was going on there...because if this is what he's saying to customers, imagine what he's saying to employees he actually knows.

This is so interesting, because you occasionally read about pharmacists who refuse to sell birth control. I've never heard of one who offered it unsolicited to a pregnant mom.

Anonymous said...

I would start with an investigation - by the customer's account, there were 3 employees who overheard this conversation. Once I felt I had a good idea of exactly what happened, I'd take appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination considering whether the employee had any prior incidents such as this. If there had been any other incident I'd terminate. If there were no prior incidents and the employee seemed to understand the issue, I'd do a strong warning and include training for the employee. The other employees who witnessed the event may be subject to disciplinary action as well and definitely training.

Kelly said...

Either immediate termination or a strong warning, like pretty much everyone else has said. Again, asking all the employees who were there what happened so that I have a reasonable idea before making any decisions.

I wouldn't necessarily penalize the people who laughed, only because laughter can be a normal response to discomfort or not knowing what to say. Though, if they were egging him on or being rude to the customer (based on what I find out from talking to everyone, and video if available), that would merit a write-up.

I don't know if training is needed for everybody if the people involved understand the seriousness of the issue. Like Noah said, it feels like a punishment to the people who didn't do anything. A note to everyone on respecting customers' privacy and appropriate topics of conversation should be enough.

Arlan said...

I come from a large family and can easily imagine comments like this. I have had some directed at me (even though we are speaking of my siblings) and have heard some directed at my parents. Never a pharmacist, that I recall, but sometimes a customer service person.

It would be important to use available resources to check the story out. If the incident happened mostly as described I would not expect much to show on video nor expect any of the employees mentioned to give an honest account.

I agree with Kerry, there seems to be a culture issue which will need much more than "making an example" or "punish by training" to fix. (I'm not a big fan of punish with training. Training is for innocent ignorance, not deliberate misbehavior.) But if the incident seemed to have happened in anything close to what we have portrayed, the employee needs to be terminated. No employee should say something like that to a customer; if that even concievably has to be explained than the entire management of the branch needs to be turned over. It falls under "treating the customer with respect" and it wouldn't matter if he had mocked her clothes rather than her kids; it doesn't need to be explained specifically.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine anyone being so loose with the opinions as the tech was. Is this a true story?

eight said...

I have no trouble believing this story is true. Family planning is one of those subjects where a truly shocking number of people express unsolicited opinions. And pregnant women may as well be considered public property, the way people comment ("you look like you're going to explode!") and even touch the pregnant belly without asking.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this incident would require further investigation, and that if the investigation indicates that this unfolded in the way the customer complaint states, the employee would at least receive a written reprimand.

However, whether or not I would recommend termination would depend on the policies of the individual store or chain. If this is one of the stores that has already given its pharmacy employees license to inject their personal beliefs into patients' personal family planning choices (by allowing them to refuse to fill legally-issued prescriptions for drugs whose effects they find immoral), I don't think I could find much wrong with the content of what he said, but would let him know that unsolicited hectoring of patients on family planning issues should use a serious, moralistic, concerned tone rather than a jovial one.

If this is a pharmacy that has strong policies in place defining the role of the pharmacist as limited to offering professional advice which is solicited and related to the medical issues of the patient, then I would seek immediate termination for gross misconduct.

Nuqotw said...

Investigate, just to get all the stories. Assuming it's even close to true, I would require the employee to make personal and written apologies to the customer, and then I'd fire his sorry little butt. And as the store manager, I would also make personal and written apologies to the customer.

Anonymous said...

@pelican: I have four children, and I have gotten loads of comments like this. I'm thinking that this dude thought he was quite the card and being very funny.

I'd investigate and at the very least warn the perp and the laughers. If it wasn't the first time, I'd term, if they'd been warned sufficiently prior. If this has happened a lot, address that 'pervasive atmosphere' thing that was mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

I would remove any private information from the letter then present the letter to the offending employee. Ask him in a polite tone how we should rectify the problem. His response should provide what his values are, apologetic, remorseful, cynical, etc.

If he seemed genuinely innocent then I would recommend that he personally apologize to the customer. I send a quick apology to the customer, give a small update that he didn't mean to offend, and ask her if she could set up a time to come in to meet myself and the employee so he has a chance to apologize. Or maybe a video apology if she is not comfortable meeting him again. Whether she accepts or not, a written warning of the situation and another occurrence may be cause for termination. And depending on rules/laws/etc consider installing a video/audio surveillance at the front desk so you have proof.

If he is not fully persuasive then I would have to strongly consider off-boarding him because if he cannot persuade me of his position then other customers will have a harder time accepting his reasons, then I (or some one more appropriate) would personally apologize to the customer in hopes to persuade her to try our new service. This is also tricky because you also want to make sure that he is not going to seek the lady for vengeful reasons.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, without having heard the tone in which these comments were made, it's hard for me to judge one way or the other...but the reality is that people mean well, but are frequently insensitive...and as adults, the best thing to do is simply turn the tables on someone who's crossed a line (intentionally or no!), by making it clear that you see things differently than they do. In this case, I would have laughed, hugged one of my kids, and immediately said, "Why YES! I've been very blessed--and I've got another one on the way!"

If the employee meant to be offensive--then you've shown him he failed to be. If he was genuinely trying to make pleasant small talk (and was just inept), then you've shown him a new way to make nice small talk--so that next time, he can say, "Wow! You've really been blessed, haven't you?! :)"

IF it was patently clear that the employee was being mean-spirited and was TRYING to be insulting, then by all means, get management involved...but really, isn't it better to change people's behavior in a positive way, (showing them how to achieve better conversational rapport), than to "tell on them"--and possibly effect change through fear and intimidation?

As a side benefit--showing your kids how to deal with someone who lacks couth, kindly, is helping give them a skill that will be invaluable to them, throughout their life.

My parents taught me to deal with situations like that as a very young child--and while I have often been startled by some of the very odd things people will say to me, responding as if I'm sure they meant something nice usually results in my finding out that they DID, in fact, mean to be nice--it just didn't come out right.

Just my two cents! :)

Anonymous said...

I think your friend should have looked at the pharmacist very doe-eyed and asked, "what do you mean by that?" Letting him dig his own grave and throw himself in. I agree he was probably trying to make polite conversation but as it turns out is a bumbling fool. As for the bystanders, did they heartedly laugh or were they so mortified that all they could do was laugh because they too are social idiots?

Honestly, people with >3 children are an anomaly and we are interested in that. How else do you explain the Jon & Kate phenomenon or the fact that I know that Michelle Duggar is having her 19th kid? Doesn't excuse his actions. But maybe she should have a witty come back up her sleeve, I'm sure she'll be able to us it.

Susan said...

Upon my first read through, I was really offended about the comments. After going back through, I thought that some of the comments may not have been meant in a negative way. Seriously, I've worked with other scientists who are quirky that way. They offend others without the intention to do so. They simply have a lack of people skills that is often mistaken for rude behavior. You really have to get to know them in order to understand that they mean no offense. That doesn't mean they shouldn't try and improve their people skills once they are made aware that they offend.

There was one part that I thought the pharmacist was way out of line on and that was mentioning birth control in front of such young children. Maybe I'm sensitive to it because I have a child who always asked "What's that?" to everything. What do you say when your four year old asks what is birth control that the man at the store was talking about? That is the part that I would be irate about. Even if you wanted to explain it in young children's terms, they wouldn't understand or could become scared if you said that birth control makes it so that mommy doesn't have a baby.

As for what the employer should do, I think training and a formal warning should be in order. If something like this comes up again, the employee should be dismissed, and I'd tell him that during the warning. When you work with customers and just people in general, you need to be mindful of what you say. Not everyone has the same sense of humor or sees things in the same way. If you don't really know someone, then you really should keep things sort of standard and courteous. He could have said something like: Wow, you really have your hands full with three little ones and another on the way. What are their ages? That would have been a good place to stop with someone who is unfamiliar. It breaks the ice and starts to form a relationship.

Of course all of this depends on what sort of track record this employee has. Does this employee get along with or even please other customers? If this guy has said rude or potentially rude things to other customers, then it is probably time for him to go, i.e. not a good fit for the business. If he's old enough to be a pharmacist, then he's old enough to know what mature and professional behavior means. This is just my opinion, and I have never worked in HR or had comparable experience. I think a letter from the pharmacy to the customer would be in order as well.

josh42042 said...

#1. inapropriate comments, the pharmacist was a little out of line. definitnely needs some additional training, but i wouldn't fire him.

#2. she has too many kids. people should only have one child, any more and you're contributing to the overpopulation of the earth, which if left unchecked will result in no more children for anyone. think of the future children!

jmkenrick said...

I should note that I'm not writing this from a manager or an HR perspective, as I'm a recent graduate and new to the working world (this is also my first time commenting on your blog, though I've been reading for awhile.)

I agree with earlier comments that it's possible (likely, even) that the pharmacist didn't intend to be offensive. But what he intended wasn't really the issue: he was rude, and he upset a customer, and two other employees felt comfortable laughing instead of getting involved.

I agree with Kerry from ClueWagon that this suggests an unprofessional culture within the pharmacy. In my past jobs (mostly retail) I’ve noticed this sort of culture develop when: a) the manager is never around; b) the manager is so unable to relate to the employees that they all start feeling like the job is a joke or c) the manager isn’t very nice and everyone dislikes them to the point of wanting to ignore their instructions.

While firing the employee seems like a proper response, I think that the most important thing to do would be to examine the management style of the store. If I was his direct manager, I would have to get more feedback from employees on this specific incident, but also on the overall culture. On the other hand, if I was from the corporate office, I would want to have a long talk with the managers at that particular location to figure out what kind of atmosphere was being created there. It’s fine to be chatty with customers, but this kind of humor can cross a line with many people.

Of course I would also follow up with the woman who complained and grovel, grovel, grovel.

- Johanna

P.S. As one of four children, I can attest that people do make comments like this. I’ve also had people ask me if me and my sisters are all from the same set of parents, or if the younger two are (stage whisper) from another woman. Some people just don’t realize how they come off.

Henning Makholm said...

Susan says: There was one part that I thought the pharmacist was way out of line on and that was mentioning birth control in front of such young children. Maybe I'm sensitive to it because I have a child who always asked "What's that?" to everything. What do you say when your four year old asks what is birth control that the man at the store was talking about?

Why, you explain what (one kind of) birth control is -- medicine that a woman can use to control whether she's going to have babies or not. You don't have to be able to explain how it works. For extra points (and older children), explain how wonderful it is that such things exist, because before it was invented children could never be sure that their parents really wanted them. Now they can.

I fail to see how this could be a problem.

Kate said...

Granted, I didn't read all the responses I would have to say the focus is too much on the discipline aspect and not enough on the customer. Remember people, HR is a "customer service" role. If it was appropriate I would call or email the person whom first contacted the company to get an overview of the situation first hand and to get a feel for the person who wrote the letter. Maybe by complaining they were just looking for free nasal spray. I would get a good feel for this just by the conversation with the customer. I would follow up with an investigation and talk with the employee involved. Once I got a better understanding and completed my investigation I would follow up with the customer to let her know the matter was settled and we appreciated her feedback but not go into detail. I mean, c'mon we still would like her to return to our store a happy customer.

Charles said...

I agree with what Kate said in terms of how this should be handled - professionally. I also agree that it might be someone who is looking for "free" nasal spray or something.

But, as a follow up to many of the comments here and as a trainer I have to ask, why do so many ALWAYS dump issues like this on us trainers?

Yes, I can train someone on almost anything; but I cannot train someone on how not to be a dork. This is something that he should have learned from his parents/guardians, etc. If he doesn't know how to behave by now I am not sure that any "training" will help. If truly needed, a simple talking-to from a manager should be sufficient.

So, leave us trainers out of this one, please!

P.S. I do NOT do "sensitivity", "diversity", or any other such B.S. training. Those are NOT training programs; they are used by companies to help avoid/win lawsuits.

Susan said...

Henning Makholm: I agree that could be one way of explaining birth control. What would happen in the case of say a miscarriage? Would some children assume that mommy took the medicine because she changed her mind about the baby? I'm not calling your advice into question. It is pretty good.

The pharmacist is still a jerk, even if he was trying to be jovial in a warped sort of way (we're not sure about that). Who walks up to a pregnant woman and says that there is birth control to prevent that sort of thing? Those aren't his exact words, but it could be construed as the message.

As a teacher, I don't use the word training in the same sense that I think others might use it or read into it. Where I teach, we do have training from time to time on how to relate to students and focus on the social aspects of teaching. I was thinking something along those lines for employees who deal with customers. Where I teach, all of us must go through this sort of training.

I'm definitely not using the word training in a punitive sense or as a cure. I realize from watching some of my peers that it is still up to the individual employee to heed the advice given in training. I wouldn't call this sort of training sensitivity training or diversity training either. I think of those as being meant more for employee to employee relationships. There are a lot of parents out there who do not teach their children how to properly relate to other people and act in a respectful manner. Sometimes it feels like that is left up to teachers, which I agree stinks and is almost impossible.

keckardt13 said...

I would interview all employees to get their take on the ordeal. Once that was done I would bounce this off of HR and find out what they feel should happen and a written warning would most likely be attached to the Employee and/or employees file. All employees present are accountable, if it was found that any wrong doing had been done.

I would also seek recommendation as how to repair the damage that has been done. Maybe they can all sit down to have some Kool aide together. All sides need to be heard before any decision can be made.

Sassenach said...

Assuming this isn't part of some pattern of behavior, I don't see this as a firing offense. The guy intended some friendly humor and ended up insulting the mother. A quiet word with him, followed up by a telephoned or written apology from him should suffice. I imagine that he'd be embarassed and upset that he'd caused offense and would never do it again.

Pharmacist said...

the pharmacist is more educated than anyone in HR, so he can say what he wants and you won't do a damn thing.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the sub-topic of people mentioning 'off-color' or sensitive topics in front of your kids:

I'm the Anonymous with four kids, and I never could understand why people will freak because someone said something sensitive in front of my children. I'd *rather* be around when they hear stuff because then I can explain the topic in a manner that I find appropriate.

Shielding kids from OMGSENSITIVESTUFF is just an exercise in futility: they WILL hear things and they WILL have questions and the best thing we can hope for as parents is that we get the opportunity to give them the answer.

And I say this as someone who had small children when the whole Clinton/Lewinsky mess was all over the news. Trying to shield the kids from sensitive words/concepts was impossible.

Oh, and Pharmacist? I worked in healthcare HR for almost twenty years and that attitude has never been the norm. The rules of customer service still apply to the pharmacists, too.

Susan said...

A question for anonymous with the four kids that are unshielded. Do you let your little ones watch porn so you can explain it all to them? Same thing. They'll eventually find out, so why not show them and explain it away to be sure they understand the way you want them to understand.

Other people can help running their mouths about age-inappropriate topics. The television is bad enough. I don't believe in totally shielding children either. That doesn't mean people who say things they shouldn't in front of young children shouldn't be chastised. Really, does a four year old need to know about birth control? Would they actually understand? Some might understand. Do you explain the Cialis (not sure about spelling) or Viagra commercials to your children? What if they ask what erectile dysfunction is? Would you explain? How would you explain? Would you be glad your had the experience because at least you were the first person to explain it to your child? Also, just because you explain it doesn't mean they won't ask others and get bad explanations and ideas.

novice-hr said...

@Charles- I absolutely agree with you. I don't think that training would be the solution to this problem. How can you train someone on sensitivity or when not to laugh at an inappropriate jokes?

Anonymous said...

Susan, yes, I do indeed explain the Cialis and Viagra commercials if they ask. I explain *everything* in a manner that is appropriate to their age.

One of the things that the childfree get all over us 'breeders' about is the attitude that "everyone should watch their mouth around my kid." I especially loved the arrogance of those "Baby on Board" notes on I should be more careful around that car because the lives in that car were somehow more precious than the lives in a car full of old people. I don't think so.

I don't buy into that. If there's something around that I don't want my kids to see (porn, for example), I remove the kid from the area. If someone says something in front of my kid that is an adult concept, I will ask my kid if they have questions about that concept. If I don't like a steady stream of 'adult concepts' fed into the kid, I remove the kid from the 'adult concepts.'

I do not go out of my way to introduce them to everything; I am, however, letting the world swirl around us to a certain degree and commenting as I see fit.

I do not run around trying to get everyone else to filter what they're doing because of the little ears. It is paying off as my children move into adulthood: they don't giggle when someone says 'penis' and they are making really adult decisions and doing a nice job of it. They don't always decide what I'd like them to, but they're adults and they know I'll love them anyway. They still come to me with questions and requests for advice.

You see, I believe in this thing called 'free speech' and understand that it is my responsibility and right not to listen to 'free speech' if I don't care to, as opposed to running around chastising people when they exercise their rights.

TheLabRat said...

Anon above me you are awesome.

Age inappropriate is totally subjective; I try to censor myself around strangers' kids to avoid the hassle, not because I believe my words are age inappropriate. I knew what birth control was when I was four. And guess what I didn't do; have a baby at 16 like my parents before me. Thanks mom for breaking the cycle (her mom pulled her out of sex ed).

God we're such prudes in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see a problem where intent and offense are mentioned I think about Toby's presentation on the Office... "so, in closing, intention is irrelevant." I digress.

Lots of "fire the guy" here. I am surprised that, given the audience, there were so few "let's investigate to figure out exactly what happened" statements. Thoughtlessly offending a customer, breaching confidentiality in a confidentiality-intensive job, and speaking inappropriately in the presence of minor children are all discipline-worthy offenses. I've just found that you usually don't get to the truth as easily when you're already convinced that the subject of the complaint is guilty.

Tanya Willette said...

This is the million dollar question. I have two children and although there is a long list of things I would like to say to someone like this, I can’t because the people most affected by your response would be your children, not the pharmacist. So from a mother to a mother, think about what lesson you want your children to learn before giving a response.

I think your response was wonderful and a letter to management is a great idea! Either that or leave your children with your husband, drive back to the pharmacy, and let him know how inappropriate his comments were 

JR said...


I think those responding focused on one section of the story or another that was a hotpoint for them and missed the big picture. Basically we have a retail company and a disgruntled customer. The company must have had plenty of complaints in the past and have an established method of dealing with them. They either take them seriously and do a complete investigation with appropriate action or they ignore them and lose customers.

Buffy said...

It doesn't excuse this tech's alleged remarks but pharmacies are often very stressful places to work and there is often an adversarial (or indifferent) relationship between pharmacists and clients. Get the meds out fast and forget your're actually treating people because it doesn't matter to the company's bottom line (sad, but true)! I strongly agree with Michelle's earlier comments. First, conduct an investigation and interview each employee. If the tech's comments are accurate, I would term the tech (regardless of any prior infraction) and counsel those who laughed at the remarks with option to term for any further disciplinary problems. Laughter in these situations is often a gutless deer-in-headlights response rather than actual agreement with the person making the comments.